“To feel a part of something again, to feel a viability in the community again, that I am worth something to somebody, I have this now. And it’s not because of what I did, but it’s because of the help I got from the Portland Rescue Mission.”
Kevin sat in Burnside Shelter at the end of his time in the Connect Program, sharing his story with tears in his eyes and a heart full of gratitude for the hope that was provided through Portland Rescue Mission and his church.
After getting out of the Marine Corps in 1976 and enduring a heartbreaking divorce, where Kevin lost contact with his son, he began camping out on his own. He worked many jobs during that time and was able to hide his homelessness from his employers. Nobody in his life knew he was living in a tent, which increased his isolation, creating a toxic environment of loneliness and depression. Kevin lived in secret shame and isolation for decades.
Kevin met the definition of chronic homelessness as defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development: (1) an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR (2) an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.”
“I wish I had somebody to come and visit. I wish I had friends. I’d finally decided enough is enough. Nobody cares if I’m here or not. Nobody knows if I’m here or not. So why not just get rid of it all, just end it all? And that’s a hard way for me to think because I love my Lord. I love my Lord. And even though I want to go home, I don’t want to go that way.”
The day before Thanksgiving of 2015, he reached out to the pastor of a church he had been attending and vulnerably shared that he had been secretly living on the street. That Sunday, he took another risk and stood up before the whole congregation and shared his situation with everyone.
Kevin’s first step toward healing was breaking the barrier of isolation.
Through the help of his church, Kevin connected with Portland Rescue Mission and enrolled in the Connect Program at the Burnside Shelter. That very night, he had a safe place to sleep for the first time in 35 years.
Months later he told us that the Connect Program saved his life. Men enrolled in the Connect Program are guaranteed safe shelter and healthy meals while they work with an advocate who helps to break down barriers to long-term stability. Men focus on getting healthy physically and emotionally. They receive help looking for work and applying for permanent housing. But the most pervasive need of every man in the Connect Program is to belong to a community and to be loved.
When Kevin held up the keys to his first apartment since leaving the marine corps, tears of gratitude filled his eyes. It was hard for him to believe that he had a home of his own. He imagined inviting others over for dinner, having friends, and living in community.
“This Thanksgiving, I’ll be thankful. I’ll be thankful for everybody that has taken the time and helped me pull myself up by my bootstraps, down in the Portland Rescue Mission, my church. I will be thankful for everything and everybody, just because this is what the Lord has led me through to get me to where he wants me.”
The holidays are an invitation to step out of loneliness and share a meal with another person. At Portland Rescue Mission, this invitation is for everyone, and we are inviting you to join us. With the support of our community, we plan to serve over 50,000 meals this holiday season.
Tune in this next week, November 19th during our Radiothon on 104.1 The Fish to have your donation matched up to $1,000.